IAMCR Feature: Peggy Gray
IAMCR Newsletter - October 2015
Peggy Gray was awarded the IAMCR Distinguished Contribution Award during the opening session of IAMCR's 2017 conference in Leicester. Thanks, Peggy!
The IAMCR Feature highlights the contributions made by those who have been closely associated with IAMCR over the years, both office bearers and friends. It includes a write up by the person being featured along with short appreciations from friends.In this issue we profile Peggy Gray. Peggy was a researcher at the University of Leicester and for eighteen years volunteered as IAMCR's administrative assistant and conference organiser. She is retired but still lives in the Leicester region and will be attending IAMCR's conference at University of Leicester next July.
My first experience of IAMCR was in1974 when Jim Halloran asked me to accompany him to Leipzig as Administrative Assistant for his first Conference as President. That was an exciting adventure for me as it was the first time I had crossed the Iron Curtain, which we did in Elizabeth Noelle Neumann's Mercedes, and at the end of the week my return journey was alone by rail! In Leipzig I met many interesting people, some of whom became good friends, learned a lot about IAMCR and UNESCO, about Jim's determination to build bridges between East and West, and what members wanted from membership and their bi-annual conferences.
That was the beginning of my eighteen years as the Voluntary Administrative Assistant and Conference Organiser for the Association. The 1976 Conference was to be in Leicester so I became responsible for all the local organisation, registrations, accommodation and care of participants during the Conference. My husband, two young daughters, Jim's children and colleagues from CMCR all helped to welcome participants and make them feel at home
That was the first of 9 Conferences for which I was the organiser from HQ working with the elected Programme Committees and local organising committees in Warsaw, Caracas, Paris, Prague, New Delhi, Barcelona, Bled and Sao Paulo. Each of them have special memories, one was Paris where we were regally entertained by the Mayor of Paris, Jacques Chirac who had stunning blue eyes and was a real charmer! Walking in the underground corridor in the Hotel/Conference Centre in Delhi and feeling an amazing presence in the man who bowed to me as he passed whom I then realised was the Dalai Llama. Learning that a murder had been committed in the car park outside the hotel in Caracas; the Wagner opera in Prague; the Ramblas in Barcelona where numerous members 'lost' money, passports etc. the Communist culture of masses of people with paper in hand but few actually working in the conference hall in Warsaw; the beauty of Lake Bled and everywhere the generous hospitality of local members and friendships made.
In 1972 there were 22 paid up members, by 1990 that had multiplied by almost a hundredfold and the number of countries involved in all continents and types of societies had grown as had, the organisation in terms of Sections, publications, the involvement of women, numbers attending Conferences and the breadth of research undertaken. The questions of financial viability and the establishment of a permanent administrative headquarters were always on the agenda but still unresolved.
I have appreciated attending conferences since I ceased to be either Administrative Secretary or an International Council member and have been delighted to see the growth in participation. Of course much has changed especially due to the incredible developments in methods of communication and IT in recent years which may mean a Central Office is no longer necessary. We were always seeking closer relationships between nations across the world to facilitate peace.... East/West, North/South and now the focus may be between nations of different faiths. The International friendships fostered through the organisation are so important and an aspect of IAMCR I have always greatly valued.
My retirement gift from the Hungarian Association, a glass bowl on which is engraved 'Peggy's Secret; Organisation by Friendship' has pride of place in my home and heart and it is what I hope IAMCR will always achieve.
Olga Linne, Vice President, IAMCR (1992-2000)
I spoke to Peggy Gray the first time in 1976. She and colleagues from the Centre of Mass Communication Research met us, a large group of Scandinavian scholars, at the railway station in Leicester. It was the inception of the IAMCR Conference in Leicester.
It was a remarkable conference, partly because it was one of the first large conferences and partly because of Peggy Gray. Peggy was the organizer and administrator, but so much more. She had negotiated with the University of Leicester to use the residential halls and university buildings in enchanted botanical gardens. We all stayed in mostly Victorian or Edwardian residential halls and it was amazing how many well-known scholars from throughout the world one met in the shower rooms.
Peggy had an uncanny or mysterious way of combining being in charge of this international conference while responding to sometimes quite pedestrian complaints. Her energy, patience, stoicism influenced the energy of the conference. We also realized that Peggy had involved her husband and two young daughters in the enterprise. They drove participants all over Leicester and guided them to shops and the many mini bars in the university halls. Professor Halloran was then the President of IAMCR and Peggy had engaged his whole family in the enterprise too.
The spirit of Peggy Gray was exceptional in Leicester, but most remarkable is that she went on to organize conferences all over the world for decades. I remember the IAMCR Conference in New Delhi when the general assembly kept applauding and shouting:”Peggy, Peggy, Peggy”.
In 2016 the University of Leicester will be hosting the next IAMCR Conference. I hope that Peggy and her family will be there too.
Cees Hamelink, President, IAMCR (1988-1992)
I met Peggy in the early Seventies when I joined IAMCR. She was the irreplaceable right-hand of the then president Jim Halloran. Actually, IAMCR meetings were a recurrent pilgrimage in which the family members came to show their respect to our beloved parents Jim and Peggy.
Peggy mastered the art of ubiquity, was eternally friendly, helpful and efficient. Moreover she was a researcher herself and a very convivial whisky drinker which was awfully good for our cooperation that lasted many years. Also when I took over from Jim it was such a comfort to know that Peggy was always around.
Thanks, Peggy, for what you did for IAMCR and for many of us personally.